As the proud media partner of the virtual Sugar and Spice Festival, that’s happening this 17 to 24 November, we are bringing you this series of interviews with presenters so that you get to know them better and their workshops.
This week, we speak to Singapore’s Theresa Goh, who won bronze at the 2016 Summer Paralympics and besides setting world records, Theresa is also a queer athlete who describes herself as someone who would like attitudes to change towards disability and LGBTQ+ representation across sports. She is also a Pinkdot ambassador since 2013, hoping to push the boundaries of the inclusivity of Singapore’s LGBTQ+.
Q: What are some of the challenges that you face being a queer athlete?
I think at the start, before there were many other LGBTQ+ athletes who were out, it definitely felt a lot lonelier. It’s better now that there’s a ton more support and more queer people have come out, but the same challenges apply to a queer athlete the way it appears to a queer non-athlete. The stigma of being a queer person still applies in society and is perpetuated through discriminatory laws or policies and people.
Q: It is tough enough to be a queer athlete in Singapore, but are there any unique challenges about being a queer para-athlete?
Intersectionally speaking, I guess sometimes I feel like many people can’t fathom the idea of queerness or sexuality, and disability in the same box, just with how they sometimes view disabled people as nonsexual and incapable of relationships. So the challenge I usually feel is trying to be as visible and seen as possible.
Q: It’s great that you’re doing so much to fight for LGBTQ+ inclusivity in Singapore, could you share with our readers some projects and initiatives that you have worked on or are working on at the moment?
At the moment, I find that I can best contribute is by using my platform to raise voices up and people who are experts in their field and what they do, up.
Q: Could you share a little bit about the ups and downs of your journey of becoming an LGBTQ+ activist?
I don’t think I consider myself an activist at this point just because I don’t think I’ve put in the work. But at the time I’ve been advocating more and being more involved in LGBTQ issues in Singapore, there are days where you are a little more hopeful and optimistic but speaking up in a society where it’s still quite predominantly fearful of speaking up, it does get tiring and then you wonder why things don’t seem to be moving. I’m very grateful to the people who have been so dedicated and brave in all the work they do and are doing to make the future better and more progressive.
Q: What are you hoping participants will take away from the panel discussion (Sexuality, Illness, and Disability Panel)?
I’m unsure, to be honest! I suppose I hope they learn something they didn’t already know or find their minds a little more open after the panel compared to before.
Q: What do you think our society is lacking when it comes to accepting diversity?
Empathy. I think we as a society can be quite selfish and afraid which is sad because not everyone can be so lucky or privileged where selfishness and fear can be a choice.
Q: Do you have any advice for those who are living with disabilities and are currently struggling with their sexuality?
It depends now on what they’re struggling with. If it’s that you don’t know what your sexuality is, find out, meet people, read up, have more experiences if you can.
If the struggle is with acceptance by people around you, then whenever possible, seek people who will accept you. Life is too short to be living it surrounded by people who don’t love you for who you are.
If you’re interested to attend Theresa’s or other presenters’ workshops, please go to www.sugarandspice.asia to get your festival pass!
Images: Theresa Goh by Marcus Mok (featured) and Theresa Goh by Douglas Ho (insert)